The Curious Need For A Detachment to Outcome
My father had been battling stage 4-lung cancer for three years. Anyone who has dealt with lung cancer can see the miracle in that: “Three years? Not three months?” He was given two months to live years ago and battled it bravely each and every day. It had been a long difficult journey for the entire family. We fought the system. We argued with doctors. We moved my parents from one state to the next looking for support, any kind of support; medical support, holistic support, emotional support, environmental support. Every time we hit a bump we applied The Three R’s- Reassess, Research, Re-commit- over and over again, The Three R’s. It has been a grueling process to say the least but one that granted him life enough to experience the birth of his great grand daughter, the marriage of his middle daughter, the music of his rock and roll grandson and the hula performances of his 4 grand daughters. It was worth every day of reassessing, every hour of researching, every ounce of energy it took to re-commit again and again and again- Reassess, Research Recommit, Reassess Research, Recommit.
But Halloween night as I sat at his bedside in the critical care unit of Keiser Permanente Hospital watching him labor so intensely, tubes down his throat, IV’s intricately winding their way to various veins in his arms and legs, I no longer contemplated The Three R’s…I just wanted him to relax for one blessed moment, embrace the light, and slip away peacefully.
Life is a funny thing, demanding of us the utmost commitment while simultaneously requiring a willingness to let go. We are taught from a very young age that success in whatever we want to achieve comes from hard work and solid, unfailing effort and commitment. But as we move through life, we learn to bend. We learn that we are each but a small albeit significant part of a much larger picture with its own driving energy; Energy that has the momentum of millennia behind it and the knowingness of God in front of it. We learn that alongside all that effort and commitment must ride a Detachment to Outcome. Sitting at my fathers beside, after all the doctors and the chemo and the machines and the healers and the herbs and crystals and exotic concoctions sent by friends from every corner of the earth, that detachment did not come with ease. But at last it had come. I had let it go. And I prayed that my father, the first man to ever love me, could peacefully let it go as well, letting whatever might be, simply be.
I left my father’s bedside at 10 pm, turning that particular overnight vigil to my younger sister, and walked back to my car with a sense of peaceful understanding. When morning came I headed back to that hospital with the acceptance, the quiet knowledge that I could very well be saying my last goodbyes. But as I strode through the ICU past the beeping life support and the quiet sobs, the sounds of life hanging by a thread, the very air around me seemed to be filling with energy. I could almost smell fresh air. “Is that a chuckle I detect? A covered laugh even?” As I approached the door of Dad’s room I was stunned to find my father sitting up in a chair eating Jell-O, joking and down right laughing with my sister. There he was, conscious, very much alive and in good spirits. My heart leaped with joy.
As the other 20 plus members of my extended family filed in, I stood back in absolute awe of the voyage my father had just taken. Within 48 hours he had been defibrillated on the floor of his bedroom, rushed to the hospital in an ambulance, intubated, shot up with all kinds of drugs, given his last rights …twice, and now there he was. Like nothing happened but a corn chip caught in his throat. I fell into deep contemplation of the journey I myself had taken, having charged forward for three years in a commitment to save my father’s life, then being brought to the brink in an instant and having to let it all go. But there it was. It had all come back.
As the joyous laughter spilled out into the hallway from my fathers very crowded room, a voice snapped me to, “Okay Nia, what’s next?” It was that voice of mine - Nia the problem solver. So what’s next? Of course, the Three R’s- the unrelenting, unfailing Three R’s-Reassess, Research, and Recommit. Only this time, I promised myself that riding along side would be a Detachment to Outcome, leaving a little less room for disappointment and grief, and allowing a lot more power from the energy of the universe.
One morning, exactly two months later, my mother called in tears, voice trembling, “Nia? I think your father is gone honey! He’s gone.” I rushed to her home, about a 45-minute drive. When I arrived everything was perfectly peaceful. No ambulances. No rushing about. My mother opened the door in tears. I wrapped my arms around her and held her as tightly as I could. When she walked away to get some tissue, I looked over my left shoulder, and there, lying on the ground was my father, right in the doorway between his room and the hallway. My heart about stopped. I instinctively walked over to him and knelt at his side. He was still very warm, almost as though he was sleeping. All I could say was, “Jeez dad, what were you thinking?” but I knew what he was thinking. As I lay my head on his chest for the very last time, I felt the same calm and peace I had felt throughout my entire life only when my head was in that very spot. When my mutt dog Sugar died giving birth, when my heart was first broken by Ricky Brice, when my teenage son ran away from home, his chest was my refuge. Strange that in this moment of his passing, I would be gifted with not a sense of loss, but a sense of peace. I somehow knew what to DO. I let it go. I let it be. I knew he did too. And we both were happy.